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Oscars set dates for 2015 award season

Mark your calendars, Oscar-watchers.

After a slightly later presentation this year due to the Winter Olympics, the 2015 Academy Awards telecast has returned to its usual domain on Sunday, Feb. 22 of next year.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made the announcement today, along with a list of other significant dates that form the backbone of backslapping season.

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Oscar analysis: '12 Years a Slave' breaks Academy's trend of playing it safe

Shoulda trusted the coin.

About two weeks ago, sitting in the office of EW assistant managing editor Sean Smith, we were discussing EW’s official Oscar predictions and mulling the reaction I was getting from many voters: Gravity was taking the lead in the tightest Best Picture race in years, and those who favored 12 Years a Slave seemed soft in their support.

For months, ever since the historical drama premiered at the Toronto film festival, it was at the top of my predictions list — a crushing, emotionally resonant film that addressed how we perceive and treat those who appear to be different from ourselves. But it was also an uncompromising film, full of brutality that was often difficult to watch, and we all know the Academy Awards have compromised a lot in the past.

So I switched our pick toward Gravity, which was garnering a groundswell of support in other categories, and seemed to be the popular, more accessible favorite. The graphics people were alerted to make a last-minute adjustment, and I stayed with that through the final round of guessing. It was close enough to give me a stomachache. (Believe it or not, the predictions truly are made based on our best assessment of voters. There’s no advocacy or favoritism. The cold, hard pragmatism of wanting to be right guides those choices.)

The call was made: Gravity it would be, by a hair. But then I flipped a quarter, and Sean called it: Tails, it would be 12 Years a Slave.

Again — shoulda trusted the coin. READ FULL STORY

Prize Fighter Analysis: BAFTA wins for '12 Years a Slave' and 'Gravity' further muddle a tight Oscar race

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Will it be Gravity or 12 Years a Slave? We keep looking for clarity, but this year’s award season is not forthcoming.

The BAFTA awards — think of them as the British Oscars — are considered a major Academy Award indicators, and this year 12 Years a Slave won Best Film. But … Gravity claimed the award for “Outstanding British Film” (since it was mostly produced there.)

So there.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman's film breakthrough, remembered by 'Nebraska' Oscar-nominee June Squibb

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One great pleasure of watching an old movie is spotting famous actors doing bit parts, back before anyone could have known what they’d become.

Philip Seymour Hoffman provided a litany of these, having paid his dues over many years as a working actor — making even small roles seem impressive. That’s how we eventually came to know his name.

After his death yesterday, EW began looking back through some of these early performances — his debut as a wise-ass street kid on a 1991 episode of Law & Order, and his supporting role as the morally ambiguous best friend of Chris O’Donnell’s character in 1992′s Scent of a Woman.

Looking up that particular part, we spotted something surprising in one of his early scenes. In the game of finding a future film star in a background role, this scene from Scent of a Woman turned out to be a double.

Hoffman is not just sharing the screen with O’Donnell, as they try to distract an older teacher from witnessing a prank being set up over the headmaster’s parking space. Hoffman is also acting opposite a current Oscar-nominee: Nebraska‘s June Squibb.

We reached out to her via her son, filmmaker Harry Kakatsakis, to see if she had any memories of Hoffman to share.

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'Her' and 'Captain Phillips' win Writers Guild Awards

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Spike Jonze’s philosophical sci-fi love story Her, and Billy Ray’s harrowing true-life hostage saga Captain Phillips earned best original and adapted screenplays, respectively, from the Writers Guild Awards on Saturday.

In the original category, Her was facing its four rivals for the Oscar: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, and Nebraska, so its victory can be seen as a strong harbinger of where the Academy Award could go on March 2. In anecdotal sampling of Academy members, EW’s Prize Fighter has also determined that Her is far and away the front-runner for this category.

The WGA’s predictive powers are less assured in the adapted category, since guild rules excluded some top Oscar contenders this year.

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'Alone Yet Not Alone': Academy says revoked Original Song composer contacted a third of voters

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Three days after yanking the Original Song nomination from the religious period-drama Alone Yet Not Alone, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has issue a more detailed explanation about why the theme song was disqualified.

At issue was composer Bruce Broughton, a former governor of the group’s music branch, who acknowledged that he privately emailed members of that voting division and asked them to consider his song from the relatively obscure movie.

Meanwhile, Broughton is questioning whether what he did was any different than the past award-season consulting done by the current Academy president, who comes from a background in marketing and public relations.

Since every film is hyped and promoted in some way, the Academy is now explaining why his actions were deemed improper — saying he directly reached out to nearly one-third of the voters in his field, and used his position as a leader to gain an advantage that other contenders didn’t have.

“The Academy takes very seriously anything that undermines the integrity of the Oscars voting process,” Saturday’s statement read. “The Board regretfully concluded that Mr. Broughton’s actions did precisely that.”

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'Alone Yet Not Alone': The other nominees who had their Oscars revoked

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Alone Yet Not Alone has some company.

The obscure religious drama, which had its Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song revoked over allegations of improper campaigning, is one of the few films in history to suffer such a fate.

In one case, the film actually won the Oscar — and the victory was overturned after the fact and awarded to the runner-up. And in another — the earliest in the organization history — no one is sure why the film was rejected from consideration.

UPDATED: While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences disputes that some crediting and nominating issues of the past amount to a revoked nomination, here are some they cite as examples of contenders whose shots at the trophy were brought to a halt:

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Oscar Analysis: 'Gravity' and 'Hustle' tie, Oprah snubbed, and 'Wolf' un-shamed among Academy shocks and sure-things

Gravity and American Hustle tied for a leading 10 Oscar nominations , and 12 Years a Slave was right behind them with nine.

The Wolf of Wall Street fared better with Academy members than expected, while Saving Mr. Banks fared worse.

And for once, it’s no fun to be Oprah and Tom Hanks.

These are the immediate takeaways as the 86th Academy Award nominations were revealed Thursday morning.

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Golden Globes: What '12 Years a Slave' victory means for Oscar race -- ANALYSIS

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A kind of hopelessness had set in at the Golden Globe viewing party hosted by Fox on Sunday night. The mood only got worse and worse as the show went on. The overall sense going into the ceremony was that members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association were not major fans of Fox Searchlight’s harrowing 12 Years a Slave. 

Still, there were a few chances … all of them lost. Almost.

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Directors Guild nominees: Martin Scorsese in, but no Spike Jonze

The Directors Guild of America announced its feature film nominees today and the list is full of fairly safe bets: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave and David O. Russell for American Hustle.

The other two contenders selected by the DGA were Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street and Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips.

The question is whether the Oscar nominations will follow suit this time, or veer into surprise territory like last year.

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